The MacGregor Legacy - For Love or Loyalty

1760 Scotland - To atone for her father's evil, Lauren Campbell agrees to help Malcolm MacGregor. By the time she realizes she's the bargaining price to free Malcolm's mother from indentured servitude, it's too late.

Path of Freedom, Quilts of Love series

1858 North Carolina - When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple..

Highland Sanctuary, (Highland series - Book 2)

1477 Scotland - A chieftain heir is hired to restore Briagh Castle and discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world.

Highland Blessings, (Book 1 - Highland series)

1473 Scotland - The story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise to his dying father.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Story Always Trumps Writing Rules

I’ve heard some great authors say that story always trumps the rules of writing. I’m finding this to be true. But what does this mean?

It means that you may not have obeyed all the writing rules perfectly in every element in your manuscript, but the story itself is so great that an editor doesn’t want to put it down. And if they are having trouble putting it down, so will readers. Editors will be willing to work with you on the mechanics of writing in order to get that “great story” to the level it should be and published.

This doesn’t mean that the manuscript can be in any condition and sloppy. All the basics of good writing will have to be present—just not perfect.

I have seven completed manuscripts. Of those, I have a few favorites in spite of the fact that I’m the author of all of them. Something about those stories grip me, even as a reader. My writing is the same in each one. So what is it that makes those stories stand out among the others, as better than the standard of all that I’ve written? It’s the story itself, the characters and the overall plot that a reader can identify with and cheer them on. It isn’t necessarily the writing. A person could recite and tell each story, and those stories would still be more compelling to the ear.

These are also the stories that have finaled in contests and received requests from editors to submit the complete manuscripts. When a story is getting noticed, make sure you work on the writing elements and obey as many writing rules as possible. Eventually, it will be noticed by the right person to get it published.

If you’ve been shopping a manuscript around from place to place and no one seems to be interested, put it down and concentrate on a new, fresh story. It may not be your writing that is the problem. It may be your story. Because when you have a great story, it always trumps the writing. And people notice—especially editors.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bost Grist Mill - Concord, NC



Since the Bost Grist Mill was established in 1810, I've listed it under the Regency Era, but the current building only dates back to the 1870's. These mills were very important to the establishment of the local towns and family farms in the beginning of our country. The mill grinds cornmeal and grits and in its day could grind as much as 150 bushels a day. If you would like to learn more about the history of the Bost Grist Mill, go to their website at http://www.bostgristmill.com/.



This mill is still run and owned by the Bost family. They hold community events inviting local reenactors, harvest celebrations in the fall, holiday promotions and a number of other historical and family entertainment. In addition to their homemade specialties in their shop, they also have ice cream. This was a huge hit for my daughter who tolerates my fascination with history up to a certain level. According to her, she likes history, but I take it overboard.



The photo to the left is of my daughter Celina standing in front of a covered wagon on display at the site. Can you imagine living in something like that for months at a time and sleeping in one of those without any heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CFBA Book Review - "White Christmas Pie"




is introducingWhite Christmas Pie


Barbour Publishing, Inc
by





ABOUT THE BOOK:

Step into Amish country for this bittersweet holiday romance. Here you'll meet Will Henderson, a young man tortured by his past, and Karen Yoder, a young woman looking for answers. Add a desperate father searching for his son, and you have all the ingredients for a first-class romance that will inspire and enthrall.

Abandoned by his father, Will Henderson was raised by an Amish couple. Now he's about to marry Karen Yoder but is having second thoughts. Can Will overcome the bitterness of his past in order to secure his future? Karen cannot break through the barrier her fiance has suddenly constructed around his heart. When she seeks the advice of an old boyfriend, Will begins to see green. Has he already lost his chance for happiness?

When an accident threatens Will's life, the strength of blood ties is tested. Will a recipe for White Christmas pie contain the ingredients for a happily-ever-after?

If you would like to read the first chapter of White Christmas Pie, go HERE.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Writing When You Can't

Ever had a day when you stare at the blank screen and nothing comes to you?

Or you stare at what you wrote the day before and you have no idea how to continue or finish it?

I’m having several of those days.

It’s rare that I get writer’s block. And even my inability to write right now isn’t exactly writer’s block. I say this because I know what I need to write, where the story is going, and I even have the next scene in my head. The problem is I can’t get it written down the way I want it to go. I’ve probably started writing this scene at least ten times, but I keep rewriting the same sentences because nothing sounds right. I don’t know why, but it isn’t flowing—and I need to flow. That’s how I write.

I’m going to try a few things that I’ve done in the past to fix this problem and I want to share a few of these ideas with you.

  • Tell the family I need to be alone to work through this scene. Often, I can write around my family talking to me and even with the TV blaring, but there are times when I need solitude. This is one of those times.


  • Get away from my computer. Right now the Internet and email is a huge distraction to me. This isn’t usually the case, but when I’m struggling with a scene it is too much of a temptation for me. I’m going to either have to write by hand on a notebook and type it in later or type in my story on my AlphaSmart.


  • Keep my sentences, even if I don’t like them and change them later. If I keep changing every sentence, I’ll never get anywhere. This is where my internal editor is kicking in and tripping up my internal muse—my flow.


  • Forget work related issues on my day job. This is harder than I’d like, but I’m trying. Work is where I spend most of my time, unfortunately, so it tends to creep up on my subconscious, even when I’m not there.


  • Forget my historical settings, descriptions and dialogue. I’m working on a contemporary now, think modern.


  • Remember that I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. Wherever my writing is weak, God will help me strengthen those weak spots. If I don’t catch it, my critique partners will. Let the pressure go and relax.


  • Pray for guidance, confidence and motivation. Allow God to be my flow. Write from the Holy Spirit.


  • Concentrate less on the mechanics and the “rules” and more on the story. What does my heroine want to accomplish in this scene? What does the reader need to know about her at the beginning? What hook do I want to end the scene on? What question do I want to leave the reader imagining? How do I want the read to feel after reading this scene?



    If you want to share some ideas, I’d love to hear them. In the meantime, I’m going to finish this scene.
  • Friday, November 14, 2008

    Superstitions in Victorian Mourning


    Before I give you a list of superstitions, I want to mention one thing that people did when they were mourning a loved one during the Victorian era. Once tiny type photos became available, they would place a black ribbon over the corner of the deceased person's photo and that is how they carried it.

    One thing I discovered that I did not know, was that if they could, they would even have a photographer take a photo of the deceased person before they buried them--especially if no photo existed of them in life. This is especially true of parents mourning their children.


    The photo above is an example of a type of photo and black ribbon that was carried by a loved one in mourning. It belongs to historical reenactor, Beverly Capps, an expert on Victorian Mourning. Her webpage is at: http://www.30thnct.org/FMP/Victorian20Era.htm. And the information below also comes from Beverly.

    Victorian Superstitions (1825 - 1870)
    Please note: I am not superstitious and I believe God has gifted us with freedom from these type of strongholds. I know I am free in Christ and I pray that you are. I am only listing them because if we write and read about families who lived in the Victorian era, we need to understand where some of their traditions came from and the motivation behind their behavior and culture.
    ~Stop the clock in the death room or you will have bad luck.
    ~To lock the door after a funeral procession has left the house is bad luck.
    ~Cover all mirrors in the house so the spirit of the deceased will not hide in the mirror. Also, the next reflection seen in the mirror will be the next to die.
    ~If the deceased has lived a good life, flowers will bloom on his grave, if he has been evil, weeds will grow.

    ~Do not wear anything new to a funeral, especially shoes.

    ~A person who transplants a cedar tree will die when the lower limbs of the tree reach the length of his coffin.

    ~It is bad luck to meet a funeral procession head-on. If you see one approaching, turn around.

    ~The person who sees thirteen white horses at once, will soon be carried in a hearse.

    ~If a clock stopped on his own or chimed randomly between the hours of the clock, another death would soon occur.

    Please note: Clocks were stopped to determine the actual time of death. When the turmoil was over, everyone could be sure of the exact time of death.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Author Interview - Nicole Seitz


    I would like to welcome Nicole Seitz, a native of Hilton Head, South Carolina, she is not only an author, but a talented artist as well. Nicole has offered to give away one free autographed copy either Trouble the Water or The Spirit of Sweetgrass. Winner's choice! All you have to do is leave a comment at the end of this post.



    Q: Describe yourself for our visitors. (ex. hobbies, favorite music, ministries).
    I'm a happily married mother of two children, ages 3 and 5. I work from home, enjoy reading, cooking and eating ethnic foods, and I love to make time for writing and painting. I paint the covers for my novels and find inspiration all around me. I sit on the board of a wonderful non-profit called Operation Home, speak to various groups, and enjoy meeting readers, authors, and interesting people in general. My head is a playground, and I'm never bored.

    Q: How do you find time to connect with God?
    I talk and pray whenever I can. I don't have a set time of meeting with God (except at church), but from the moment I wake up till I lay my head down at night, I have an ongoing conversation with Him.
    Q: Who are your favorite authors? Favorite books?
    I love The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses and The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon and Keeper of the House by Rebecca T. Godwin...to name a few!

    Q: Tell us about your journey to publication.
    I was struck with the idea for my first novel when I was six-months pregnant with my second child. I had just driven by a sweetgrass basket stand in Mount Pleasant, SC and had to start writing it down on a scrap of paper while driving! After some internet research, I awoke at 4 AM the next morning with my main character, Essie Mae, telling her story. About a month later, I began having problems with the pregnancy and soon was put on bed rest. My son (now almost 4!) was born early under emergency circumstances, and when I came home with a healthy child, I felt a new purpose in life. For some reason, I would wake at all hours, writing The Spirit of Sweetgrass. I finished it in 5 months, got an agent from
    writersmarket.com, and the book sold within eight months in a two-book deal to Integrity Publishers, which was bought by Thomas Nelson. I've since entered another 4-book contract with Thomas Nelson. God is good!



    Q: Tell us about your current book?
    Trouble the Water came out in March of this year. It's a novel about hope, healing and learning to live again even in the most dire circumstances. Set in the South Carolina Sea Islands, the book delves into the mysteries surrounding life and death, following the stories of a capricious widow and two middle-aged sisters. When their lives collide in a secluded Gullah community, each woman will discover what threatens to destroy her. One will seek healing in the face of dying, another will be forced to re-examine all that she knows to be true, and one woman will choose to keep hidden the long-buried ghosts of her past--just a little while longer. Narrated in three distinct voices, Trouble the Water is all at once heart-wrenching and humorous, giving glimpses of island life and unique Gullah/Geechee culture. The title is based on the lyrics of an African-American spiritual about healing and freedom, "Wade in the Water," and on John 5:4 (KJV): For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

    Q: How did you come up with ideas for this book?
    The novel was inspired by my mother's and aunt's close relationship as sisters. My aunt passed away in 1996 from breast cancer and my mother and I were with her then. She chose to keep her illness a secret from her family, and I wanted to explore the reasons why a person might keep a secret like that. The book had a healing effect in my own life--after I wrote it, there was no more anger, just peace and compassion. The book came about because I had written a letter to Pat Conroy asking for advice for a new writer when my first book was coming out. In the ensuing conversation, he told me that my aunt would make a fascinating character, and a couple weeks later, I found myself cooking up this story about a woman who has hit bottom and falls into the loving arms of a group of Gullah nannies.

    Q: List your three most recent books (if applicable).
    The Spirit of Sweetgrass
    Trouble the Water

    Q: What's next for you?
    My next novel, A Hundred Years of Happiness, will be released in March 2009 from Thomas Nelson. It's a story inspired by some events that happened with my stepfather last year, and it explores the lingering effects of war on families and next generations. I'm very excited about this book. It crosses genders, generations and genres, and I think it's timely and pertinent to anyone who has a war veteran in his or her life. I just turned in the manuscript for my fourth novel, and I'm under contract for two more after that, so I better get busy!

    Q: Where can visitors find you online?
    You can visit my website at
    www.nicoleseitz.com to find my upcoming events, details about books, photos, guestbook, and even paintings for sale. I have a mailing list you can subscribe to and a blog called Occasional Murmurings at http://nicoleseitz.blogspot.com. Please come by and visit!

    And thank you, Jennifer, for your questions!
    -----------------------------------------------------------

    Nicole, thank you for being with us today! I enjoyed the interview.

    Friday, November 07, 2008

    Victorian Era Mourning Fashion


    The Victorian Era stretched through the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). It was the coming of the Industrial Age, a time of great scientific breakthroughs, and an era filled with many social customs and elaborate superstitions. It was a time of mass emigration to the United States from all over the world.

    Because of the huge English population that came to America, many of the social and fashion mourning customs so popular in England under Queen Victoria's reign was carried to the U.S. The only difference, is that some of the second and third generations of Americans tended to be a little less strict with these mourning customs, especially those that lived in the wilderness and had to work hard to make ends meet and to survive.

    Unlike today, there were various stages of mourning attire for paricular loved ones, and people adhered to these strict rules, especially in England and many of the well established areas of the US. Mourning was the hardest and lasted the longest for widows.

    Widows
    During the first year, widows were expected to refuse all social invitations including weddings and christenings. The only visits allowed were from close relatives and church services. A widow would wear a dress made of black crepe for the first year. Her bonnet was typically made of black crepe with a widow's cap inside and a dark veil with a deep hem. After the first year and a day, a widow could begin wearing black silk. For the next six months, it would be heavily trimmed in crepe until the eighteenth month. Prior to this no jewelry was acceptable. After two years, a widow was allowed to come out of morning and wear regular colors and jewelry again. However, some considered it more tasteful to continue wearing dark colors and grays in half-mourning for another six months.

    Deaths of Parents or Child
    People would be in full mourning for a year. The first six months they wore paramatta with crepe trim. Then they would wear three months in black and the last three months in half-mourning.

    Deaths of a Sibling
    People would be in mourning for six months. The first three months they wore crepe and the last three months they wore black attire.

    Deaths of Aunts and Uncles
    They wore black for three months.

    Deaths of First Cousins
    People spent six weeks in black.


    The photo above is of historical reenactor, Beverly Capps, an expert on Victorian Mourning. For more information you can visit her webpage at: http://www.30thnct.org/FMP/Victorian20Era.htm. She is a member of the Civilian Alliance of the 30th NC Troop of Reenactors at www.30thnct.org.

    Monday, November 03, 2008

    Between Minor and Major Edits

    The first time an editor told me they thought they could acquire my manuscript after I made a few minor changes, I was thrilled! The editor sent me a brief paragraph stating that I needed to lighten the sensual detail between my hero and heroine, deepen the faith element, and lighten the Scottish brogue a bit.

    Immediately I tried to think of all the scenes that could be considered sensual. There was only one that stood out in my mind, so I edited that scene. I worked on layering a few more faith elements here and there, and took out some of the major brogue dialect throughout the manuscript.

    She rejected it.

    What? I thought, but I did what you asked me to do.

    Did I? I’ll never know. What could be minor to one person may be major to another. Since then I’ve received more editor feedback and learned additional things that can be helpful to others—I hope.

    Minor Edits
    Typically, I consider minor edits basic grammar corrections here and there. It may also include rewording a few phrases every other paragraph, but not necessarily every line.

    Other minor edits could include going through your manuscript and adding simple sensory details to each scene, or altering the dialogue to make it more fresh and direct or to sound more like your character. You may need to deepen the point of view (POV) of one or two of your main characters.

    Deepening the faith element could be minor edits or major edits, depending on your plot and what the editor has in mind. Perhaps you only need to have your main character pray more often so he/she is seen relying on their faith more or attending church in one or two scenes. It could also mean having the unbelieving character in your story ask more questions about Christianity and faith before he/she gives their life to the Lord.

    If you don’t even have a church or a circle of Christian friends and characters in your current story, this could require major edits. You may have to write a few new scenes or revise existing scenes to include those elements. This will alter your subplots, but not your main plot so it will fall under major edits, but it still won’t be a complete rewrite.

    Major Edits
    When you have to make any change to a plot or a sub-plot, I consider this major edits. It will require writing a few new scenes or rewriting existing scenes. In this case, something in the book is missing and must be added.

    Examples of major edits include adding new characters, reworking a plot to include additional plot twists, adding multiple POV’s, rewriting scenes and chapters so show rather than tell.

    It could also be rewriting scenes to eliminate head-hopping, which is switching between more than one character’s POV within a scene. One scene should only show one character’s POV, and then you should switch to a new scene to another character’s POV.

    Other major edits are when you have simple grammar, dialogue, POV issues, and sensory or descriptive detail that need correction throughout the manuscript. This isn’t only on a few pages here and there throughout the manuscript, but a problem on every page or every other page throughout the complete book. Simple corrections on 300 pages can quickly become a major edit and take up a lot more time than you originally calculated.